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closed captioning of twbl twbl is made possible by the firemen's foundation. california public schools rank lowest in the nation. >> we are a bare bones organization. we are just able to keep the lights on, the doors open and the teachers in the classrooms. >> how do tax dollars flow to public education? >> when the state goes through a budget crisis, schools are going to be in the cross hairs. >> with two competing tax measures on the november ballot, what's at stake for the state and its budget strapped schools? coming up next.
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hello. i'm al letson, in for belva davis. welcome to a special edition of "this week in northern california." with the november election just around the corner, the campaigns are heating up for propositions 30 and 38. tonight, we want to cut through the noise and try to make sense of what really is at stake for schools if one or both or neither get the green light. we'll hear from both sides in just a few minutes. plus, get some in depth analysis from two veteran education reporters. but first, we wanted to see just how bad the budget situation is in our schools. and how it got that way in the first place. pbs news hour correspondent spencer michaels takes a look.
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>> in schools around the state, there's a feeling that the ax is about to fall. and if and when it does, san francisco school superintendent will have to act. >> we have our doomsday plan. part of that is lopping days off of the school year. and it can be up to ten days next year. that's two weeks off of the school year. >> richard caranza says his district, though well supported by voter-passed bond measures and parcel taxes, has suffered as the state's economy tanked and, along with it, state support. >> we are a bare bones organization. and we're just able to keep the lights on, the doors open and the teachers in classroom. >> californians are about to vote on two competing initiatives, 30 and 38. they are both temporary tax increases aimed at funding public schools. caranza supports prop 30 and fears if it fails -- >> there is no worse scenario.
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it's -- it's def-con 5. >> from cities to suburbs, the decline in state funding and the slump in property values has hit hard. since 2007, the purse student spending in california has been cut by more than $1,200, while costs and salaries continue to rise. in schools around the state, like paraside intermediate in san bruno, the budget cuts have affected the classroom. >> anything you know about atomic structure. >> this eighth grade science teacher says increased class size and lack of funds to upgrade her cramped, 1950s era classroom, are effecting her ability to teach. >> i cram 32 students into this small classroom. so, when, i mean, can you imagine doing a lab in here? i have four chairs to one table. with such large class sizes, i am not able to spend as much time with each student.
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>> california's schools haven't always relied on the state for the bulk of their funding. until the 1970s, districts raised most of their money through property taxes and bonds. rich districts flourished. poor and minority districts struggled. such inequality was ruled illegal by the state supreme court. then, in 1978, voters passed proposition 13, which capped property taxes. >> before proposition 13, california schools received the largest share of their dollars from local property tax revenues. after proposition 13 passed, local property tax revenues in the state fell by over 50%. >> in response, voters passed prop 98 in 1988, which guaranteed a minimum funding level for k through 12 education. today, schools get more than half their revenue from the state, with the rest coming from
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the federal government, property taxes and fees and other local revenue. but it hasn't completely worked, according to the california budget project's jonathan caplan. >> because the state provides a large portion of its budget to schools, when the state experiences revenue shortfalls, when the state goes through a budget crisis as we've been experiencing, what that means is that schools are going to be in the cross hairs. >> the result? schools that once were tops in the nation are no longer. >> california ranks dead last when it comes to the number of students per teacher. it also ranks dead last when it comes to the number of students per counselor. >> one national study now ranks california schools overall p performance 30th in the nation and it could get worse, if the state doesn't get the additional revenue from tax increases, automatic cuts in the state budget will be triggered. >> approximately $6 billion worth.
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the lion share of those cuts are directed at education. 4$4.8 billion from k-12 education. over a half a billion dollars from the state's community colleges and $250 million each to the university of california and the california state university. >> and just like the k-12 schools, the state's higher education has already felt the downturn. california's community colleges serve 2.6 million students. the largest higher education system in the country. >> it's a beautiful color back here. >> schools like sacramento city college prepare people for vocations like cosmetology or for transferring to a four-year university. but since there isn't enough money, schools like this have had to cut classes and turn away potential students. brice harris was chance hor of the los rios district and soon will be state chancellor. >> we really have seen about
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15,000 students denied access to these colleges, just in the sacramento region. and some estimates statewide show that number to be in excess of 300,000 students. >> that has caused the system to essentially ration education, and to push students to get their diplomas faster, even if classes aren't available. >> they do tend to push you on a little bit more to take a little bit more classes than you actually are capable of. you may get a d or f in a class and you may not pass it, but you have to take it over again. they are trying to rush you from getting out of here. >> at santa monica community college this past spring, students protested a proposed tuition hike that was designed to reduce emissions in some popular courses. the same money pressures have affected the university of california and the california state university system. where classes are also hard to get, tuition is rising and maintenance is neglected.
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students and faculty fear uc's reputation is in jeopardy. >> i think the university is at risk. in terms of its quality. >> still, for all the doom and gloom scenarios, there are some californians who don't think raises taxes, as propositions 30 and 38 both do, are the solution to the state's education woes. >> we have to ask ourself what throwing money at the problem right now would do. i have to say that i think it would decrease the incentive for material reform in california's education right now. >> carl broat is a treasurer from for group california parents for educational choice. he says, until districts address ballooning employee pensions and enact other cost-saving measures, schools will continue to struggle, no matter how much per pupil spending increases. >> we haven't doing enough. we haven't thinking creatively about our expenses.
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we aren't addressing the union contracts. the issue isn't how much we spend but what we spend it on. and whether we spend it efficiently and in the best way to get the biggest bang for the buck. >> an upturn in the state's economy could help the whole situation. but when that occurs and how much it will do remain unclear. >> now that we've seen what's at stake for schools, it's time to break down how proposition 30 and 38 each propose to bridge the funding gap. proposition 30, governor brown's measure, raises income tax rates on individuals earning more than $250,000 a year, and couples who earn more than $500,000 a year. the income tax rate will go up on a sliding scale from 1% increase at the low end to a 3% hike for the highest earners. the tax lasts seven years. proposition 30 also raises the state's sales tax by a quarter of a cent for four years.
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proposition 38, molly munger's measure, increases income tax rates on a sliding scale for almost all californians with rates for the lowest earners at .4%, on up to the highest rate of 2.2% on those making more than $2.5 million. the tax lasts 12 years. you can find even more detail online at kqed's handy proposition guide. go to for the link. normally, taxes and school budgets are pretty dry subjects but for my panelists today, who have been covering the firestorm over these measures or directly in the thick of it, nothing could be further from the truth. joining me now, arun ramanathan, jill tucker, education reporter for "the san francisco chroni e chronicle." louis freedberg and california senate pro temp darrell
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steinberg. welcome. arun, explain to me exactly what proposition 38 does. >> so, what we saw in the film was depressingly familiar. before i joined the education trust west, we're a statewide education civil rights organization, i was in san diego unified school district. so, you could see the budget cuts year and year rippling through our schools and our classrooms. and so, what's really at stake when we think about the future is not just our education system, not just our k-12 system, but the economy of our state and our state's future. what proposition 38 does is it reinvests in our k-12 system, our preschool system, for 12 years. on an average, $10 billion a year, and that would actually restore all the cuts that have been slashing through our education system for the last five years. now, that money is protected. it can't be taken by sacramento, it can't be used for other
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purposes. it has to go to schools. and then it gives films at the school level the ability to make decisions about how to use that money. so, not folks in sacramento, not administrators in districts but folks at the school level. and that's $10 billion a year that can be used to restore arts, music, p.e., extend the school year, all of the things that have been cut from our schools and school districts. >> but that's not really going to help with this year? >> no, actually, it would. some of the money will flow in this year. some of the money can be used to offset the cuts that would be projected in this year. and some of the money can be used to offset the cuts that would be projected in the higher education system. and the thing about that is, again, this is protected revenue. it's not throwing into prop 98. it's money that's outside of the money that's ordinarily set aside for the schools. so, right now, if we're 47, what this would do is bring us, which is sort of sad, to the average nationally, and it would do that
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for 12 years. to really address this in the long-term. >> so, jill, you've been seeing the cuts in schools first hand. can you talk a little bit about that? >> you know, we have seen, as arun said, cuts across everything. we have seen summer school, virtually eliminated. we have seen class sizes increase to 35 students or more. you are seeing layoffs, i think about 30,000 teachers laid off. but you know, all those things that we took for granted, when i was growing up, pre-prop 13, you know, art, music and libraries and all of those things, most of those things are gone now. and they are poised, which, you know, i remember last year, so many educators and principals and the school district people said, this is it, we have nothing left to cut and then we get to this year, where they're poised to, if prop 30 doesn't pass, for example, to save $5
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million in cuts and they are talking about decreasing the school year, many districts would have to cut at least a week off or more at the end of the school year and find, get rid of personnel, custodians, anybody who they can. so, it really is -- it's a different school system than people might remember from, you know, 20, 30 years ago. >> and, so, proposition 30 is looking to answer those questions, as well. explain to us, senator, how that works. >> sure. thank you, al. well, first of all, it's important to point out that proposition 30 and 38 cannot exist together. if both were to pass, the one with the most votes would win and they're in conflict, and, so, the voters need to make a choice. and i strongly support proposition 30. and i do so, because i've been the leader of the state senate since 2009, and in 2009, because of the wall street crash, the excess of wall street, our state
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was faced with a $42 billion budget deficit. over the last four years, the legislature and two governors have chipped away at this deficit from 42 to 26 to $19 billion, and now we're almost to the end of it. and all parts of public service, especially public education, have been hit very, very hard. but it's not just k-12. it's all three segments of the higher education system, it's the safety net for people, most in need. we've completely eliminated dental care and dental assistance for low income adults, for example. now, if prop 30 fails, or if prop 38 gets more votes than prop 30, what will happen is very clear. there will be almost $6 billion worth of automatic cuts to k-12 education. higher education, other public services. and the money that arun talks about, under prop 38, will not
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even kick in, until after the two to three weeks of the school year have already been lopped off this particular academic year. and in addition, the state budget deficit will continue to linger at a number between $3 billion and $5 billion. proposition 30 gives californians the opportunity to end one very painful era in california and begin a new and a better chapter. and finally, as much as we all desperately want to add funding for public education, you can't add funding until you have a balanced budget. and that's our opportunity here with passing proposition 30. >> let me ask you, though, why would the legislature sort of pass the buck onto the average californian to vote on this? why wouldn't just, in the budget process, you figure this out? >> it's a fair question.
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and the reason is very clear. to raise taxes in california, through the legislature, requires a two-thirds super majority vote. democrats in california, in both houses of the legislature, have strong major titiemajorities, b two-thirds. we're trying on november 6th in the senate to get a two-thirds super majority and we have a good chance to do so. but up until now, the republicans have -- most who have signed the pledge, saying they would never raise taxes under any circumstances, refuse to vote for taxes. it happened one time, in 2009, the first year when the deficit was $42 billion, six republicans voted for taxes. the two leaders were thrown out of their leadership positions. one at 1:00 in the morning, the morning of the vote, the other several weeks later. so, we have not been able to muster the two-thirds super majority. that's why governor brown decided to go directly through the initiative process to the people.
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>> all of this sounds pretty complicated, louis. even for people who understand where everything is going. i saw graphs with budgets moving money, all sorts of things like that. i'm just wondering how the average californian takes all this stuff? >> well, that's part of the problem. you know, one of the most complicated issues, i'd say probably the most complicated public policy issue in california is school finance. a handful of people in california who understand it. i'd say at best. and, so now, what we are asking the voters to be essentially public policy experts to make sense of a system to vote on an issue that is extremely complicated. and then, on top of that, we have an extremely unfortunate situation, where we've got these two competing initiatives, on basically people trying to do similar things, i mean, to understand the differences between these two and the similarities are extremely complicated. we went through it, talking to
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every conceivable expert and there's all differences about how much money it's going to raise, when it kicks in, is it this year, next year. so, we have -- this is really, a potential disaster. because people are confused, every political expert will tell you, that i will vote against the proposition at the ballot box. >> i will say, too, i find it really -- this is really interesting, because i get a lot of comments and e-mails from parents going, help me, what do i vote for? and i find it interesting, because you have very strong, right here at our tables, advocates for public education. these are people that work hand in hand, the pta and the democrats, the pta is e be hind proposition 38, you have the teacher's union, all sorts of school districts who have been fighting for education, supporting prop 30, and, so, parents are looking at people that they have trusted to be advocates for education, now at opposite ends and it makes it, not only is it complicated, but it makes it incredibly difficult
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to figure out, who do i abandon, you know, this person that i like, and i trust, or this person that i like and i trust? >> go ahead. >> well, you know, i personally think it's sort of sad that we're in this situation. you know, the economic imperative is clear, i mean, we're going to need 5.5 million new college graduates by 2025 in this state. and so, the notion is that we, as californians, need to invest in our k-12 system to get to that goal. now, the public policy question, really, is, how do you get to that point? you're not going to get to that point by the status quo. you're not going to get to that point by staying 47th in the nation in spending. when i look at 30, saying, we're going to lop off $6 billion from the education system, if you don't vote for something, doesn't seem to be the best of all strategies. presenting a productive vision for the future, which is what 38
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does, is the right way to go. >> i agree with you. that's where we are right now. >> and respectfully, you have the luxury of not having to make choices between k-12 education, higher education and other vital public services. governor brown does. the elected legislators do. that's the difference. molly munger is very well intended, i think. prop 38 is well intended. i can see myself supporting it at another time. but governor brown was elected in 2010 by an overwhelming margin, outspent by meg whitman. now, it doesn't mean that he's a king or that any of us are, you know, have our final say, but he puts a balanced tax measure before the voters, proposition 30, that helps public education, but also balances the budget. you expect the other side, the tax payers association, the
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republicans, to oppose it. but you don't expect it from miss munger, and i must say, the only reason she can do this is because she's a wealthy person who can write a big check. now, i kind of go back to the basics of representative government. imperfect? no question about it. but in choosing between the two, i ask voters to look at two things. number one, the fact that prop 30 balances the budget and helps education, but also the munger initiative in some ways represents, to me, the initiative process run amuck. we have to make choices here and 30 is the better choice. >> can i just -- just clarify one thing, that people can vote for both. and, in fact, many organizations, like california school boards organization say you should vote for both because if you split your vote, to get that 50% majority, it only needs a simple majority for one of these to pass.
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and, whichever one passes, whichever one gets the most votes, that is the one that basically becomes the law. so, people actually don't have to choose. >> arun, did you want to respond to what the senator said? >> again, when you're looking at these initiatives, the question is, which one projects a productive and positive vision of the future? and the way that they've taken 30, essentially is to say, in a budget, right, our california budget, about 50% is education. but all the cuts, 100% of the cuts are going to come from public education. that doesn't necessarily make sense. and, again, you know, when you look at sacramento and there are a lot of great and deeply honorable folks in sacramento, like the senator, but what they have done over the last few years is increase funding for the prison system, while they've been cutting the heck out of the schools. so, you know, again, when you have an option of fixing what is truly a fundamental problem for
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our state, which is our education system, for my perspecti perspective, 38 is a better option. i'm not saying, for people that are voting for both, that's a good option, too, but this is the one that prevents a positive vision for the future. >> let me just play devil's advocate real quick, because we don't have any critics of the measure. louis and i are a little bit more the analysts and we have the pro and pro. what i heard from a lot of folks is that neither of the two ballot measures actually fixes anything. 30 is seven years, 38 is 12 years, and basically tosses money that will eventually go away. and in that time, there will be little -- this is what the critics are saying. in that time, there will be little incentive for anyone to actually, especially you folks in sacramento, no offense, to actually reform anything, to fix the problem s that got us here in the first place. so, we will feel good that we won't have the cuts or we'll have more money down the road
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for education, but in 12 years, that money goes away, in seven years, that money goes away and in the meantime, nothing happens to fix it. and i think it raises a good point. i'm not sure that people are willing to risk this next year and the massive cuts that would come if prop 30 doesn't pass or if 38 doesn't pass. if either of them don't pass. i'm not sure people are willing to throw the few years of schoolchildren under the bus to get the reform, but i think it raises a good point, that you put money, you put a band-aid on it with this money -- >> but it's going to come back. >> but it comes back, right? >> a couple of things. number one, we haven't done enough, but we are engaged in reform. this year, we passed comprehensive pension reform. we are working, as you know, i had a big bill this year, to get away from stereotypical teaching to the test, so we have
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a part in curriculum. but it's a little bit of a catch 22, because, if the argument is, you should make the taxes permanent instead of temporary, people are already reluctant to vote for a tax increase of any kind. and our economic growth in this state is not fast enough, but it is fairly steady now. >> senator, i hate to cut you off. >> that's okay. >> big question i have right now, because we're getting ready to close up. if these measures tonig s tonis where are we? >> we will see $6 billion in cuts that will include this school year being reduced by two to three weeks. we will see a billion dollars of cuts to cumulatively to the california higher education system and we won't have a balanced budget. >> louis? >> well, i think it means california is going to fall further behind the rest of the country. we are behind. the gap is getting bigger, if you look at how much we are
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behind. several thousand dollars between what california spends on its kids and the rest of the country. and that's not fair. why should a kid in california, just because they happen to be born here, be subjected to a less effective education system? and so, these propositions really do -- they're not going to solve everything. but they are going to help. >> arun, do you have anything? >> i think you're right. these propositions aren't going to solve everything, but prop 38 could solve a lot if it is passed. again, we're talking about 12 years, and we're talking about a problem that is deep and structural in california, that is also deeply entwined with the future of our economy. >> thanks to my guests for joining us. and thank you for watching our special edition of "this week in northern california." the links to kqed's extensive college coverage, including a guide to all the november ballot measures are at i'm al letson. belva davis is back next week. good night.
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This Week in Northern California
PBS October 28, 2012 4:00pm-4:30pm PDT

Series/Special. (2012) (CC) (Stereo)

TOPIC FREQUENCY California 24, Sacramento 6, Us 5, Brown 4, Arun 3, Northern California 2, Munger 2, Molly Munger 2, Louis 2, Proposition 2, San Francisco 2, Kqed 2, Al 1, Jill 1, Carl Broat 1, Pbs 1, Faculty Fear Uc 1, As Propositions 1, Belva Davis 1, Propositions 1
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